Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
December 3, 2001
Noise and snow, bless the Lord
Enthused youth display their faith on Red Deer streets
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
RED DEER — Oblivious to the chilly, minus 10 degree Celsius weather and the falling snow, some 1,300 pumped-up Catholics took to the streets Nov. 23 to celebrate with the World Youth Day cross.
It was a noisy display of faith as the pilgrims chanted religious slogans, prayed and sang songs glorifying Jesus and the cross.
Heading the candlelight procession was a huge flatbed truck carrying the Notre Dame High School band, which provided the music and the enthusiasm.
"Our God is an awesome God," the crowd sang as the band played.
Cold-looking altar servers dressed in white tunics and an honour guard of the Knight of Columbus were immediately ahead of those carrying the cross. Many in the crowd proudly carried World Youth Day flags and Canadian flags.
"We love Jesus, yes we do, what about you," pilgrims chanted as they marched along 40th Avenue on their way to St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church for a prayer service.
The procession began at St. Mary's Church following an hour-long celebration with Pallotine Father Eric Riechers.
In his homily, Riechers urged the congregation not to treat the cross as a rock star but as a symbol of sacrifice, mercy, grace and life.
"Unlike rock stars the World Youth Day Cross poses challenges to us, it demands a change in lifestyle, not just a change of plans for one Friday afternoon," Riechers told the congregation.
"In this time you should conquer all the stands against the Gospel, all the stands against the Church and all the stands opposed to Christ. We must conquer (these) with sacrifice and mercy, with grace and with love."
Pilgrims slowed down traffic as they marched but got no hostility from passing drivers, most of whom honked in approval. Curious homeowners peeked shyly through the curtains as the march went by. Some waved to the noisy pilgrims, who cheered every time the cross changed hands.
The Pilgrim Cross has been crisscrossing Canada since April. It visited the Edmonton Archdiocese Nov. 14-24 and the Calgary Diocese Nov. 25-30.
The Canadian pilgrimage will culminate with a six-week walking pilgrimage next spring from Montreal to Toronto where the cross will arrive several weeks prior to the July23-28 World Youth Day.
At St. Vladimir Church, the cross was welcomed with a prayer service.
"I encourage you to make this a true pilgrimage," Father Ron Hollohan, administrator at St. Vladimir, told the young audience. "As a priest I'm really proud with the example you are setting for other people in Canada and throughout the world. The cross you are holding symbolizes Christ's love for us."
Following the service, the pilgrims continued their march to Sacred Heart Church, where the cross became the centre of an all-night vigil.
"I'm very excited, I love this," said 16-year-old Carly Henley. "God is a big part of my life and this is just a way to have him in my life more. It's just so amazing to see all these little children that are eight and 10 years old following the cross and opening their hearts to the Lord."
Henley and her friend Alia Kowalski will attend World Youth Day in Toronto next July. They are among about 120 youth from Red Deer who plan to make the trip. Those from Notre Dame High School will make the trip in a bus, or two.
Why are they going? "To share more with God and to be with people that have the same beliefs as me, " Henley said. "In Toronto it will be like this multiplied by a million. When I am older and I have kids I'm going to tell them I spent 10 days on a bus ride to go to Toronto and share five days with God," Kowalski added.
"It feels pretty good to be part of something like this," said 14 year-old Megan Moller, who also processed with the cross from St. Mary's. "It's kind of amazing that the cross is here after having been everywhere in the world."
Blake Power, 17, was equally excited.
"It's really empowering going out there and touching the cross and carrying it yourself and bringing it along, realizing that most of the world's youth has touched it," he said. "This feels absolutely great. I get kind of emotional even thinking about it. When I was out there touching it I almost started crying, actually."
Power, who is "definitely" going to World Youth Day, thinks the cross was sent to Red Deer by God "to help me with a message for me to improve my life and to help improve other people's lives."
Sarah Bouchard, 16, was glad she attended the procession. "It's great to see all these people here just for Jesus," she said.
"I wouldn't have missed this for anything. Jesus is everything to me, probably the most important thing in my life." Bouchard is going to World Youth Day with her parish, St. Mary's.
Procession coordinator Joe Lepage, vice principal of Notre Dame School, estimated 1,300 people, half of them 18 and under, took part.
"It's amazing to see young people like this," Lepage said. "It's a wish come true, obviously."
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